Battle: Los Angeles- How to Improve

For some reason that I don’t understand, I have watched this film a lot of times. It was very enjoyable the first time round as I was young and just liked watching lots of people shoot each other for some loosely held together plot. But having watched it a few more times, it is quite clear that it is a very bad movie. Battle: Los Angeles is a mash up of the things we have come to hate from war films and alien films, with some explosions thrown in to keep us happy.

The problem therefore is that there is no real saving grace for the film. You can’t watch it seriously, because that would be stupid. There’s more than enough foolish decision making and over acting that makes it quite tricky to sit down and focus on for two hours, and the action sequences that are supposed to really sell the film aren’t quite as incredible as they could be. All of this is fine, provided the film doesn’t bore us with wishy-washy tales of people who need to get married but can’t due to a pesky alien invasion…oh.

Surely then, the big finale of this big alien movie will be original and gripping, filled with tension and drama as we don’t know who’s going to make it through (not that we care seeing as the cast is enormous and we can’t remember anyone’s name). No. they sit in some rubble and point a laser at a ship and someone else from miles away fires a rocket at the ship and the ship blows up. That’s it, that’s the finale. Nothing particularly creative or epic, not even a sniff of the president showing up in a jet and firing rockets at it. No, just standard rocket firing from an army base somewhere miles away. And if that wasn’t enough, our “heroes”, get labelled as “heroes”, and their method for destroying the ship gets messaged out to every army everywhere so they can also destroy the ships. The “heroes” did nothing! They got shot at and then someone else fired a rocket at the ship. Someone else! And just because Aaron Eckhart was days from retirement, he gets called the hero.

The point is, it’s not a very good movie. But there is something about it that I feel might be its saving grace, or at least makes the film vaguely interesting. Obviously, as it’s an alien invasion movie, news reporters and “experts” are constantly being shown discussing the situation at hand. Its determined that the aliens have come over, to steal our water, as it’s the only planet in our known universe that has so much surface water. They do mention later in the film that indeed the sea levels have lowered dramatically since the invasion, so we can all agree that the aliens were there to nab our water. The reason for this is never answered, and I personally believe that the prequel to this movie, in which the aliens decide they must spread their wings across the galaxy in search of water, would be much more interesting.

There’s no reason why the aliens can’t be humans, or at least the equivalent from another world, who have been sent out to find water for their home planet. The aliens could so easily be the humans, while the humans in this movie could be considered the indigenous alien population (like in Avatar, but with less 3D). The news reporter mentions that Earth is the only planet known to have surface water, but that doesn’t take into account the unknown planets that have water. If we reverse everything here and assume that the aliens are humans, then it could be vaguely considered plausible (I shall now talk about the aliens as if I am one of them).

For whatever reason, perhaps aliens came and stole our water in the first place, we as a species desperately need water. We clearly live off it, as proven by the fact that we have internal organs that squelch water when shot at or stabbed. Therefore we must find a way of retrieving water from other planets. We tried the ice giants of Neptune and Uranus, but we didn’t have the means of taking pieces of planet and bringing them back to our beloved Earth. So, due to the fact that us humans are horribly destructive and naturally evil, we decide to wage war on other species on other planets with water, because we need it more than them (I don’t know what the universe code is, but I imagine the species that has been in existence longer gets first billing on resources, and the species that has developed interstellar travel and the ability to steal an ocean is probably more advanced than ones using radios to talk with). It’s not as though we are all machine, we are just regular Martian type things covered in huge armour, with guns surgically attached to our arms. We go from watery planet to watery planet and we take the water, and as the news guy says, you can’t colonise a planet without wiping out the indigenous population, so we kitted ourselves out for war and began wiping out indigenous populations (again look at Avatar and the messed up things they do in order to steal a rock).

It makes sense no? The backstory of the invading aliens is a much more interesting plot, and if you mash that up with some hard-core action scenes, then you’ve got yourself a Sci-Fi movie going.

Rating: 45%

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The Avengers

Superhero movies seem to be the ultimate cash cow in Hollywood for the next few years, and it isn’t hard to see why. Not particularly hard to write (we need a superhero to deal with our crisis, we have a superhero, the superhero isn’t doing very well, the superhero saves everyone), no need for big budget or time wasting practical effects (why bother making something look real when it’s just been punched by a huge hulking creature, like Chris Pratt), and everyone will go and see them, what with the childhood memories and references to so many different franchises that you wonder why they don’t just release each film under the same name. Oh yeah, cash cow.

Hints had indeed been dropped that The Avengers was coming long before it’s announcement, such as the Captain America shield popping up in Iron Man etc. But the eventual collaboration of all of our favourite characters in one movie, finally the perfect superhero movie has been created. No need for any more after this. The pinnacle has been reached.

No. The Avengers success prompted more Marvel films, each more dramatic and “must-see” than the last. Of course, there was a major lack of Spiderman in each of these chapters of the one huge MARVEL-piece being produced before us, with each film being the same characters, with slightly varied plots. So therefore there’s more than enough license to make more movies, once they finally wrestle the rights for Spiderman back off Sony. This is a problem, because by 2020, we will be so inundated with Marvel films that each independent filmmaker will start wondering why the hell they were bothering trying to put effort into their upcoming thriller, when they could just dress a guy up in a cape and claim to be producing the best superhero movie since Batman vs SuperSpiderHulk vs Thoroki vs Iron Lord.

Now, The Avengers was a brilliant film. It actually managed to balance a witty script with enthralling action sequences, that can’t help but touch the childhood memories inside all of us, as the Hulk teams up with Iron Man to fend off hordes of alien creatures from doing something presumably awful to the planet. The plot isn’t too complex, which is fair enough as there is yet to be a superhero movie with dramatic twists and turns throughout, but you might expect a little more in that respect from a film that managed to gross over $600million. There’s no doubt though that without this the film has plenty of moments that stuck in my memory, such as the initial meeting of Iron Man and Loki with AC/DC blaring in the background, or when the Hulk decides that he always has been a deus ex machina. The point is that the film is a very good one, and deserves all the accolades that it gained.

It’s just a shame that Marvel have decided to blow their winnings on commissioning a few hundred more extensions to each franchise, not that Guardians of the Galaxy was bad, but they just need to slow down. I suppose this is more a commentary on superhero movies rather than a review specifically of The Avengers, but it is certain that it is a genre being exploited and overdone, and unless we take an amnesty for a few years, it’ll be a genre that causes its own collapse.

Rating: 65%

The Harry Potter Franchise

A quick run-down of the films:

  1. Good
  2. Average
  3. Bad
  4. Best
  5. Bad
  6. Worse
  7. Pointless
  8. Average

JK Rowling released 7 children’s books. It makes sense therefore to market the films to children. And they did, brilliantly, with the first two movies, directed by Chris Columbus. Columbus, who had previously directed family classics such as Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire. Hence, he manages to direct some more excellent family films in the form of The Philosophers Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. A hint of peril, but not horror. A hint of mystery, although not complex. And a hint of comedy, however childish. Because that’s what they are. Family films about a boy that goes to a wizard school, makes friends and flies on sticks. I’m not saying that making the franchise entirely for families would improve them, I’m simply saying it’s bad to pretend that they are anything but that.

But they do. Prisoner of Azkaban, now directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is where it starts to decline. I appreciate, the storyline is not great in the third instalment, but the problem is the way in which the tone of the franchise is flipped. The first two movies show three friends flying in cars and running away from spiders. Now suddenly they all look ten years older, only seem to travel by night and are being attacked by werewolves and dementors among other things. I see nothing wrong with rolling out that kind of film, but to go from The Chamber of Secrets to a film directed by the man who gave us Gravity and Children of Men (good films, but not exactly something you’d bring your 10 year old to), is a bit excessive.

Goblet of Fire is good. Mike Newell, a British director who gives a fair shot to every component of the film. Not too much of anything, be it drama, comedy or tension. An enjoyable film to watch, again, not taking itself too seriously and in the process makes a very watchable film.

The problem then comes with the final four. David Yates, and I’m not fully blaming the director, gives four films that he was begging to win Oscars for. Never going to happen. You cannot take a series of books about wizards, designed for people who still believe they can become one, and attempt to transform them into top class films. It cannot be done. But of course they tried their hardest. Hugely expensive special effects, hours of planning, and a penchant for horror, and that’s just to make Voldemort’s nose.

Dissecting the later movies, as in The Order of the Phoenix onwards, they all have very similar scenes. Adults playing teenagers, unnecessary jump scares, and some of the worst action sequences you will ever see in movies costing upwards of $125 million. Why go to the lengths of making the films as dark and broody as possible, if you know for a fact that the age rating can’t be any higher than a 12A, without losing the majority of the viewers. What happens then is, four films get made, designed for older viewers, made for younger viewers, and trying to strike a balance in between. Action sequences can be as exciting and gory as you like in a book, because the reader can only imagine what’s going on (and kids tend not to be able to comprehend a man getting tortured by a Cruciatus Curse). So they tried to force these thrilling scenes into the films, and realised that showing people getting blown apart by an Avada Kedavra might be quite upsetting for the hordes of younger viewers. This is just an example of the many problems that occur when trying to cater to the masses. The kids switch off with all the talking and pointless rambling of Radcliffe and friends, despite them being such great actors, while the adults switch off at the childish humour and watered down maturity. What gets released then is a collection of relatively pointless movies.

The fact that they caused meltdown at the box office is irrelevant, market a film to young teenagers, especially ones based on a massively successful book series, and the money is yours. I’ve never seen Twilight, but I’ve managed to deduce from years of memes and laughter, that they are pretty woeful films, yet they also managed to pull in millions of young teenagers to come and watch them. Splitting the finale into two films was also possibly the most disgusting move they could have played. Not only was the first instalment horrible, but the fact that it was horrible and still managed to pull in almost $300 million, prompted other film franchises to do the same, and made everyone realise that no matter how little effort is put in, people will still go and watch these things.

My final issue with the movies is the constant referencing to my beloved Lord of the Rings. We all know which one was written first, filmed first and released first. Just because you watched Harry Potter first (and you only fell in love with it because you were 8 and it was such a lovely family film), does not mean LOTR copied it, but this is just a personal issue.

Just imagine if The Philosophers Stone had been done in the same style as something like The Prisoner of Azkaban, the franchise wouldn’t have even made it past the first film.

Overall Rating: 50% (more bad than good)